Jeffrey Reddick, the creator of Final Destination, is back with another high concept horror movie. Final Destination created a formula for infinite sequels, not that horror franchises ever had trouble coming up with reasons to continue. With Don’t Look Back, however, Reddick created a horror movie of the modern social media age.
The premise of Don’t Look Back revolves around the phenomenon of pedestrians filming cell phone videos of violent attacks. This was certainly going on before 2020, and Reddick had the idea in his 2014 short Good Samaritan. The release of Don’t Look Back this year is the perfect storm of relevance and creativity.
‘Don’t Look Back’ but get it on tape
Caitlin (Kourtney Bell) survives a home invasion on her birthday that claims her father’s life. Nine months later, she meets Douglas (Dean J. West) in the park. He seems like a nice guy, but as they part, someone attacks and beats Doug to death in broad daylight. No one intervenes, but several people record the attack.
Granted, it is a lot to ask of anyone to get into a fight. Don’t Look Back is fair to the bystanders. The only person who outright says Doug’s blood is on their hands is a television pundit (Rainn Wilson in a cameo), who the film portrays as an extreme povocateur. Everyone involved has a level of guilt, most of all Caitlyn, who mainly froze because of PTSD.
You can’t cheat karma in ‘Don’t Look Back’
Caitlin meets the other bystanders just in time for them to start dying one by one. Caitlin is there to witness a shadowy figure appear to push one out the window, but there’s a suicide note either written or staged, so no one believes her. Plus, she’s been having PTSD hallucinations anyway, so the cops discredit her.
Picking off the bystanders is a modern idea Reddick can pull off on an indie budget. It doesn’t require big visual effects or elaborate chain reactions. The idea of karma paying the victims back for not stepping in is the effect.
The horror of karma
There’s a bit more going on in Don’t Look Back than just the body count. Caitlin is experiencing something that is either the literal manifestation of karma, or extreme effects of PTSD. People grab her in the night and she sees patterns everywhere around her.
Don’t Look Back interweaves parallel stories of someone, or something, killing the bystanders, and Caitlin exploring the concept of karma in a very real and personal way. Bell is a great discovery and the movie hangs on her capable shoulders.
Interestingly, Reddick focuses on pedestrian attack videos. He doesn’t touch on videos of police violence, and that’s a smart call. Systemic issues of police violence are a bit too much for a light horror movie to tackle. However, the social question of should one get involved, and what is a suitable punishment if they don’t, is just provocative enough for Don’t Look Back.